Government workforce skill policy needs detail
The Government’s policy to develop a more skilled workforce will not work unless there is investment in developing a
robust and sustainable infrastructure for improving the workforce’s literacy, language and numeracy skills.
Commenting on John Key’s announcement this morning, Katherine Percy - Chief Executive of adult literacy, numeracy and
communication support provider, Workbase – says more focus and investment in capability development is required to equip
the tertiary education system to deliver governmental targets in a robust and sustainable way.
Around half of New Zealand’s adults have literacy, numeracy and language gaps. This affects people’s ability to
undertake everyday job tasks and to complete study for qualifications.
“It’s unrealistic to set targets for getting more adults to achieve level four (advanced) qualifications when so many
need to develop literacy skills before they can successfully complete these courses,” she says.
Ms Percy agrees with the Government that level four qualifications and above are an important platform for doing complex
work tasks and roles, and that the economy will benefit by lifting workforce skill levels.
“Everyone agrees about the need for New Zealand to boost our productivity and achieving this will require a more highly
skilled workforce,” she says.
To succeed, however, the Government needs to be clear about how it will change the tertiary training system, and how
tertiary providers will be supported to build language, literacy and numeracy skills into their courses.
“At present New Zealand lacks trades tutors and teachers who can teach trade skills while at the same time building
literacy, language and numeracy skills,” she says.
Ironically, funding to support the tertiary system to develop literacy is insufficient and has been cut in recent years,
and training for tutors has also been dismantled.
Ms Percy says that making meaningful inroads into lifting New Zealand’s workforce skill levels requires the Government
to have a plan for workforce literacy skill development. This is necessary to ensure that the tertiary and vocational
training sectors can develop the relevant literacy skills for jobs and qualifications.
“It’s unrealistic to expect a meaningful improvement in our workforce’s skill levels unless the Government allocates
sufficient resources to support employers and the tertiary sector to build adult’s literacy skills.
“There have been so many policies and statements over the years about skill development and I’m concerned that there are
still no meaningful specifics about how it will be achieved.”